What Does It Mean to be Born Again?
Thanks for your recent letter in which you asked, "What
is a description of a Christian? Also, what is a Born Again Christian? I
consider myself a Christian but don't know if I am a Born Again Christian
or how important it is to be one."
Whenever we use words we need to be sure of their definitions,
so your letter asks important questions. The word "Christian"
has many different meanings attached to it.
Much of the world uses the word Christian in a very broad
sense. They will say, for example, "America is a Christian nation,"
or at least they will say it used to be a Christian nation. Someone
who was raised in a home where everyone went to, say, the Methodist Church
will often think they are Christians. Sometimes you will hear someone say,
"I was born a Christian and I'll die a Christian."
However, from a biblical view, the word "Christian"
has a much narrower definition. A Christian, according to the Bible is someone
who has had a very definite experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. That
experience is to have been "born again." So, in reality the only
Christians are born again Christians.
So what is a born again Christian? I refer you to the place
in the Bible where this whole discussion started-John, chapter three. In
this passage, the Lord is talking to a very religious man, Nicodemus. Nicodemus
has come to him by night and said, "We know you are come from God..."
Jesus, however, cut him short and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born
Jesus response troubled Nicodemus. He said, "What does this mean? Must
a man reenter his mother's womb to be born again?"
Jesus told him that there were two kinds of birth, a natural birth and a
spiritual birth. He said, "Marvel not, ye must be born again."
He further said that if a person is not born again, he "cannot see
the Kingdom of God."
To be born again is to be reborn through the spirit. It is
coming to Jesus Christ and sincerely accepting Him as Lord and Savior without
reservation. It means giving up your life in exchange for a life that is
no longer your own. It is a life that Jesus now owns. As the owner of that
life, He has the right to direct it, change it, and even end it if He so
Born again Christians are said to have "died to self."
That does not mean that they do not have the same sinful nature and desire
to control their own destinies, but that they have renounced the right
to that destiny. they may struggle with that decision and sometimes even
act like they have reneged on the decision, but the bottom line is that
they have made a very serious decision to give up their lives and destiny
to the control of Jesus Christ.
One who has been born again knows it. Maybe not initially,
and maybe not deeply, but one who has been born again begins to experience
a new life. He, as Paul says, has been "transferred from the kingdom
of darkness into the Kingdom of the Son of God." His life is no longer
his own. "The life he now lives he lives through hope in the Son of
God who loved me and gave Himself for me."
The experience of being born again is, as you might expect,
the very beginning doorway to a new life. Birth is always the first activity
of a new life, is it not?
Though, as I have said, a newly born again person may struggle
with whether or not he has actually passed through into a new life, eventually
he will find himself in new territory. "Old things pass away; behold,
all things are become new." There is a new perspective to every aspect
of life, a new color, a new fragrance, a new directions-a new Director!
Being born again is the true mark of a true disciple.
It may be possible that a person who was born again at a very
early age may not be able to remember the event clearly. However if that
person has lived as a born again Christian throughout his or her life, then
I doubt they would question having had the experience. The fact that you
ask the question gives me reason to doubt that you have experienced the
new birth. I hasten to add, however, that only God can look on a person's
heart-I certainly can't. So your salvation remains an issue between you
and God. However, I must also add that the born again Christian experiences
a life of assurance. There is an assurance of salvation, of having
finally and for all pleased God. If you feel as though you must strive to
please God, then again I would wonder if you have come to ultimate peace
These matters are often difficult to approach because we have
nothing with which to compare them. There is no other experience like the
born again experience. It is rather like the blind man who, when questioned
about his healing experience with Jesus, said, "All I know is that
I was blind and now I see." So it is with the born again experience.
That is why Jesus could say to Nicodemus, "Stop wondering! You must
be born again."
I'm not sure this helps, but I pray it does.
God bless you in your continued desire to experience the full
Grace of God.